What qualifications are needed to work as the user experience expert

RobArmes_UXDtrainign_FBHow user experience term was coined

The user experience design (UXD) industry is an emerging field; it’s up for debate exactly when user experience (UX) started, but Don Norman coined the term ‘User Experience’ in the 1990s. This means not many formal qualifications are around, and many working in the industry have shifted across from a similar discipline. 

Today it’s often considered a key part of many digital development projects, having UX as part of a cross-functional team will ensure a product perspective is heard in conversations. Not to mention the benefits for business. The impact on the bottom line can be massive by either bringing new customers in, retaining existing ones or increasing what they spend. With User experience as a term being around for 20 years now, it feels maybe it’s time for something formal needed at entry-level. So what is needed or even expected to work in the industry? 

I’ll run through traditional routes into UX, qualifications people in the industry might be looking for on a CV, explore current training out there including sharing courses I’ve done which I have found beneficial. Before looking at emerging bachelor degrees being offered by universities. 

Traditional routes into UX

I’ll start with how I got into the UX industry as I think it’s relevant and how many of my peers have had similar journeys before becoming fully-fledged UXers. When I attended university there was no such thing that existed as a degree-specific for UX, so instead, you would do a degree in design of some format, whether that be product design, graphic design or in my case I did industrial design at Loughborough. Thing is, many courses teach you the principles and processes which work across all forms of design. 

It just happened in my final year a new module was introduced called ‘User Experience design’, it sounded interesting so I opted to take it. Boy, was that a good call. I think my transition from a more hands-on physical product across to digital designer was beneficial as it gives you a different perspective on things. In a way, it helps as many of my peers haven't done the exact same as me but similar so everyone has a slightly different take and perspective they can offer.

Qualifications expected on a UX CV

So when glancing over a CV, what are people expecting to see in terms of qualifications for someone applying for a UX role. This is a tough question as I’ll explain later there is not an industry-standard qualification that everyone is looking out for. So if this isn’t the case, what might someone want to see instead? There are several options from a few hours, several days to a couple of months of intense boot camp styles in the form of online self-learning, conferences and in-person delivered tuition. 

You could say this about a lot of roles, but years of experience will add a lot of weight to show if someone has the appropriate skills. The industry we work in is so fast-paced this also adds another dimension to consider. When looking at a CV you would not be expected to see anything super formal. Ideally, something design/creative related such as a course but even that wouldn't be a dealbreaker for inviting someone for a second stage to understand them more if other credentials are present. 

As previously mentioned, you can come into UX from all sorts of backgrounds and if you have an impressive accompanying portfolio alongside the CV, that will speak volumes. I think you would want to see some self-development in terms of attending conferences or courses on specific role skills and keeping up with what is current.

Training available

So what is out there in terms of training available that you could pick up? There are plenty of options to the point it can be a bit overwhelming from a simple ‘UX training’ search on Google.

I’ve done a fair few over the years to keep up to date with things. Some have been good, some not so much and others just no good at all, but sometimes you just have to try these things out. Recently I have been asked by other peers wanting to take up UX training, either to upskill or even move into the industry. So I’ve put together a list based on the training I’ve done or had others tell me about and some research I’ve done have made 3 categories of UX training below:

** This list is not every UX training available but based on a bit of research I have done so would recommend doing a full search yourself.

Test the water

1 day - 2 weeks so you can get a feel of what UX is like but not a total commitment (with your time or a lot out of your pocket)

Immersive

You have decided you want to become a UXer and make a career out of it, anything from 3 - 6 months offering you all the skills you need to get a job afterwards (most do require anything up to 30hours a week and considerable commitment to fund)

In Industry

1 day - 5 days with the idea you are already in the industry and want to develop specific skills further or move into higher roles (flexible dates to fit around your current job and something your company might help fund as part of a training budget)

Becoming UX certified with Nielsen Norman Group

As mentioned, I have done several pieces of training over the years, but I have found what Nielsen Norman Group offers is of the highest quality. Well delivered with opportunity to network, good for moving upwards through your career and after completing five courses, you gain a UX Certification which I got earlier this year!

Courses I’ve completed at NN/g:

  • The Human Mind and Usability
  • User Interviews
  • Journey Mapping to Understand Customer Needs
  • Becoming a UX Strategist
  • New UX Managers

Having done several courses, I would recommend NN/g trainings for anyone in the industry looking for some self-development to consolidate what you already know or pick up another aspect of the UX spectrum! 

Bachelor degrees

I thought a quick search online for current UX bachelor degrees would give me endless results. However, to my surprise, I found very few with a title close to ‘User Experience design’ with still many courses such as ‘industrial’ ‘product’ ‘graphic’ ‘innovation’. I have made a list of universities in the UK that I found do offer a degree; I can’t comment on what they might be like as I haven’t done any myself but if you are interested I’d say open days and talking to current students is always good to get a feel for a degree course.

Bachelor degrees:

So what is needed?

We are an industry which is figuring itself out and evolving constantly, meaning there is still flexibility and with such choice in terms of training courses, certifications, diplomas and conferences available there is no one standard qualification any person is going to say someone must have to work in the industry. Although with universities now starting to offer degrees in the subject, who knows in a few more years time, it might well be what is expected; I will be keeping an eye out if qualifications such as degrees start appearing on CVs in the next few years.

The different categories of training I listed in this piece earlier covers the whole spectrum from transitioning into the industry all the way to if you are already in the field. I’d always recommend self-development whatever industry you are in and the space we are in moves so fast it’s always good to keep up to date with the latest trends through training or conferences. 

There is no set or right way to get into the industry, but if it’s something you think might be up your street I’d say start with something introductory before committing and try talking to someone already in the industry to get a feel.

If you would like to reach out, I’d be more than happy to have a chat and help out where I can! Drop me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn. 

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